Who speaks for our industry, or is a muffin really worth $16?

Do you remember the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? (And another interpretation.)

Our industry has too many emperors: people who garner attention for their particular points of view or causes/industry segments even when the prevailing wisdom is that their POVs are not in sync with reality.  Unlike in the story, there has been no little boy (or adult man or woman) to call out the emperors and take on the ills of our industry and put ego aside to help meetings and those who work in the industry.

Remember the “AIG-effect” ? The industry, tho’ a bit slow to react, came out with a campaign (“Meetings Mean Business”) to show why meetings were important and how they contributed to the economy. Not enough was said about those who plan meetings; at least we had some numbers to show about value.

The latest meetings brouhaha comes as a result of the just released “Audit [US] Department of Justice Conference Planning and Food and Beverage Costs”  where it appears muffins might have cost $16.00 and sodas over $5.00/can.*

Meeting planners have always been between a rock-and-a-hard-place:  their (government) agency or company “policy” dictates that meeting room rental won’t be paid or F&B can’t be purchased. Other prices are negotiated to cover the costs because without doing so means the meeting won’t be booked by the venue.  Planners are blamed for not negotiating harder; hotels are rarely cited for charging too much. The critics, most (all?) of whom have never planned a meeting or negotiated a venue contract, have no clue what goes into pricing.*   

It’s another opportunity to criticize face-to-face meetings and those who plan them.  Experienced meeting professionals continue to lose jobs because they add to the bottom line or aren’t “negotiating to get prices down”. They are now joined by hospitality sales and convention services staff whose jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate because they too aren’t doing enough to bring in profits for owners.

Who will speak for us? Who will defend the planners and their being paid what they are worth? (By my calculations, the specialized Alaskan planner was paid an average of $1,151.00 for each of 3 planning trips. Not outrageous by anyone’s standard. Certainly much less per day than I bet some of the emperors receive.) Who will save the jobs of the senior professionals in our industry? Sure, “meetings mean business” but without planners and venues, meetings will not happen.

The industry emperors have yet to speak about the criticism of the meetings cited in the audit. Perhaps they don’t want to take on the US government while lobbying for changes in policy the benefit some areas – and individuals - of our industry but not others.  Maybe we need to noodge them to say more and to who our value.

I for one have had it. We need new emperors and we need them clothed!


* I am not defending $16 muffins; not sure what went into that pricing. I did some calculations about the sodas and thought $5.37, inclusive of service charge even if they weren’t taxed because it was a government meeting wasn’t outrageous in the context of hotel pricing. Sodas at one hotel in Florida were $4.50 before ++.  


And late breaking news from Politico:  “A resolution to keep the government operating past Sept. 30 has failed in the House, as dozens of Republicans joined an overwhelming majority of Democrats to kill the continuing resolution on a 195-230 vote. Democrats opposed the resolution because it didn't have enough disaster funding, while some conservatives broke away because it didn't cut enough overall.”

There go the meetings and contracts for government meetings. Now who will speak?

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